OFFSITE ARTICLES WRITTEN REGARDING JOANIDES RACE
ROOKIE JACE MEIER HOLDS OFF JOANIDES FOR FIRST IRWINDALE WIN
By Tim Kennedy, 09/17/07
Jace "the Ace" Meier, an 18-year old Auto Club Late Model rookie from Las Vegas, fulfilled his season-long potential Saturday in a 50-lap ACLM main event at Irwindale Speedway. He started third as the second fastest qualifier in a 24-car field, took the lead on lap 19, and led the final 31 laps for his initial feature triumph on the IS half-mile. He won a feature in the same No. 55 High-Point Distributing Chevy Monte Carlo earlier this year at the three-eighths mile "Bullring" track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. About 4,800 spectators at IS witnessed the most exciting ACLM main event of the season on Firefighters Appreciation Night during NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.
Meier is a freshman in a management honors program on full scholarship at Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina. He has flown this month from Charlotte, N.C every other week to Las Vegas on Friday and driven from his hometown with his father and 15-year old sister so he could race at Irwindale. He has been the leading ACLM rookie and in the top three in overall series points most of the year. He and his family drive back to Las Vegas after Saturday races at IS and he flies to North Carolina Sunday for his Monday classes. This weekend the ambitious race driver/student had to fit in time for a college report. Meier said he has been making contacts with stock car owners at tracks near his college to obtain a ride for 2008 at Carolina tracks such as Concord or Hickory.
Meier a USAC California Ford Focus Midget Paved Track Series front runner and three-time main event winner finished sixth (2005) and fifth (2006) in USAC FF final point standings. He drove one of four Steallth midgets for the Ron Sutton driver development program His determined drive Saturday was his penultimate race at Irwindale in round 14 of the 15 race ACLM point season. He clinched 2007 series rookie of the year honors over his teammate Scott Jenkins, a 24-year old from Portland, OR who also flies in to Los Angeles to race at IS. Personable Meier entered the race third in points, two behind Michael Wright and 16-points behind series point leader Tim Huddleston, his High-Point team owner. At the checkered flag, Meier had reclaimed second spot in points; he now trails Huddleston by 10-points (530-520), with Wright third at 504. The three drivers will decide the series championship on September 29.
The 36-minute ACLM feature had three cautions and an intense, three-driver side-by-side, nose-to-tail duel involving Meier, 12th starter Nick Joanides-winner of the last two ACLM features-and 19-year old fifth-starter Kevin Callahan, from Bakersfield. Meier took third on the first lap by passing pole starter Lindsey King, 19, on the inside near turn three. He passed teammate Jenkins on lap 10 and tried to pass second-starter Wright from lap 15-18. Wright and Callahan ran high and Meier low in a tight three-car pack. On lap 18 Callahan tapped the back of Joanides car entering the third turn and Meier used the incident to dart into the lead with Callahan second and Wright third.
Joanides, in the No. 77 Mr. Crane Chevy Monte Carlo, and Huddleston moved into the top five by lap 27 of the 50-lap race. Huddleston had run the fastest lap of 24 drivers during early afternoon practice laps. However, he slipped to 13th fastest qualifier at 4:00 time trials because of a bad right rear spring. He team changed the RR spring and he started the race not knowing how his car would handle. Sixth-place King, a Legends graduate and ACLM third-ranked rookie, got tapped by seventh place Dan DiGiacomo and spun out exiting turn two on lap 28. Both drivers had to restart at the back. During the caution, officials black-flagged fourth place Jenkins, who had started fourth as the quickest qualifier, because a side panel was flapping. He pitted and returned to the back at the green flag. He finished 14th with 18 cars running at the finish and all drivers on the lead lap.
NASCAR Elite Division veteran Joanides took second place from Callahan on lap 38, but a one car incident caused the third and final yellow flag, nullifying the Joanides pass and reverting the lineup to the prior lap order. The top five were nose-to-tail, with Meier, Callahan, Joanides, Huddleston and Wright running in that order. The top three drivers pulled away and staged a three-car dice during the final 13 laps. With Meier and Joanides on the outside and Callahan now attacking on the inside, Joanides shot past Callahan for second spot high in turn four on lap 43. The final outcome remained in doubt to the checkers. Huddleston and his other High-Point Distributing driver, Chris Carmody, made it a five-way contest in the closing laps. On lap 48 Joanides shot to the inside of Meier entering the first turn and pulled even with the leader in turn two. It appeared a pass was imminent. However, Meier was determined to win his first late model feature at IS and fought back as their cars "made minor side-to-side contact". Meier kept his foot on the go-pedal and pulled away as Joanides "backed off to avoid a crash". Meier won by 0.155 over Joanides. Callahan was 0.364 behind Meier. Huddleston was 0.779 behind his rookie protg, with Carmody fifth, 1.126-seconds back.
Jubilant Meier told the crowd, "First off, I have to thank Nick Joanides so much, I'm only 18 and this is my first year in stock cars and he's like a God around here and he ran me clean and to beat him is really an honor. Thanks to High-Point for preparing my car. I just fly in from North Carolina on Friday for the races and they have the car ready. I was a little bit nervous having Nick Joanides behind me the last three laps. My family and friends are here tonight from Las Vegas." Meier said his mother was home in Las Vegas working to help pay for his racing. He telephoned her from the front straight to tell her he won. He earned $1,000 for his victory, which he gets to keep in his contract with High-Point Distributing. Meier related that he spun while qualifying at the last race and had to race on the flat-spotted tires, leading to his 13th place finish. His impressive rookie stock car season has now included a victory and three seconds among his seven top five finishes in 14 features of the tough ACLM series.
Meier and Joanides came to the press box for media interviews. Joanides has two feature victories and a second place in his three outings in the No. 77 Chevy since replacing suspended Aaron Staudinger. Meier said, "Knowing Nick was behind me had my heart really going. I knew I was going to win eventually. I thought it would be earlier this year. I led one 50 lap race at 40 laps (11 of the 14 races this year have been 40 laps) and I had a mechanical problem that caused my car to fall back. It feels so good to win. I feel lighter now (first IS victory got the weight of my shoulders)." The hoarse-voice Meier said, "I have a college report to do Sunday before I fly from Las Vegas to Charlotte." Joanides stated, "It was a heck of a race-three wide for the lead. Youve got to love it." Meier thanked Joanides again for not spinning him out. "I knew he wanted the first one real bad. I was not going to rough him up that way. But if he made a mistake, I'd have taken advantage of it," Joanides added.
Studious Meier reaps rewards at Irwindale, holds off Joanides
Article Last Updated: 09/16/2007 01:49:59 AM PDT
IRWINDALE - All that studying paid off.
College freshman Jace Meier has been poring over his school books on his way to Southern California from his North Carolina school every other week. He's been studying Irwindale Speedway's half-mile oval all season.
The on-the-track research finally paid off as the 18-year-old from Las Vegas broke through to win the 50-lap main event in front of 4,800 Saturday night.
It was wild, wooly and three-wide for the lead over the final three laps. Meier had to hold off Nick Joanides of Woodland Hills, who had won the past two races, and Kevin Callahan of Bakersfield.
"Knowing Nick Joanides was behind me had my heart really going," a hoarse Meier said. "I knew I was going to win eventually. I thought it would be earlier this year. It feels so good. I feel lighter now."
Meier took the lead on the 19th lap, and Joanides and Callahan moved up to make it three-wide for the final 26 laps.
"It was a heck of a race," Joanides said. "Three-wide for the lead.
"You've got to love it."
Joanides, who had the faster car late in the race, got into second with 13 laps to go, but a yellow flag put him back to third. He had to work by Callahan again and he gave it one last shot with three laps to go.
"I beat him and he's driven everything," Meier said. "I'm really honored. I feel indebted to him that he ran me clean."
"I knew he wanted the first one real bad," Joanides said. "I was not going to rough him up that way. But if he made a mistake, I'd have taken advantage of it."